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The best gaming headphones
Full-blown aural pleasure.
- : Logitech Pro X
- : Steelseries Arctis Pro
- : HyperX Cloud Stinger
- : HyperX Cloud Orbit S
- : Astro A40
- : Turtle Beach Stealth 600
What are gaming headphones?
A gaming headset (gaming headphones) is more than just a ‘gaming’ adjective that leads to an artificially upped price. Gaming headsets tend to have – you guessed it – gamer-centric features, like greater sound accuracy, comfort considerations for longer use, and microphones that promote clear communication. The pricier ones may be wireless and tend to have playback controls or even audiophile-friendly inclusions like a Digital-to-Analogue (DAC) converter.
Buying an entry-level gaming headset or spending more on a higher-tier upgrade is an investment in both comfort and, for the sweatier competitive gamers out there, a measurable way to gain a competitive edge in online gaming. Like most PC peripheral categories, prices start under $100, but you can expect to spend more than four times that amount to hear the soundscape of the high-end of town.
What to look out for (and what to avoid) when shopping for a quality gaming headset.
- All-day comfort is important, as is build quality and feel
- Virtual surround sound or 3D audio are fantastic for shooters
- A quality over-ear seal stops sound leak (and adds passive noise-cancelling)
- Not all mics are created equal (just ask your buddies who have to hear it)
- Most console-specific headsets work with PCs, but the inverse is not always true
- Not all wireless headsets are created equal; avoid Bluetooth as the primary connection source
- Only audiophiles will discern the subtler sound differences between high-end wired and wireless cans
Note: All pricing in this guide is accurate at the time of publishing on 16/09/20.
Best gaming headphones overall
The USB cable in question is, mercifully, detachable. The Blue Voice microphone is also detachable, and it’s the best mic I’ve ever encountered on a gaming headset (just ask my Discord buddies). Combo all of that detachability with a convenient soft carry bag, and the Pro X is built for mobility. This is important because it’s compatible with PC, mobile and the big three current-gen gaming consoles.
That said, the Pro X’s primary platform is well and truly PC, where it can take full advantage of the highly customisable audio/mic settings via Logitech’s constantly improving G Hub software. More importantly, PC is the only place you can tap into DTS Headphone:X 2.0 sound that’s so accurate, you’ll probably be accused of cheating in online shooters.
This particular point has been proven time and time again, across games, where I spectate a friend’s perspective and let them know someone has made sound around them: sound cues that their headset hasn’t picked up. The full sound package is rounded out by impressive build quality and all-day comfort. I used these cans comfortably for a 14-hour Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launch-day LAN and felt like I could have worn them for even longer.
Best wireless gaming headset
The Steelseries Arctis Pro has a number of default presets for solid sound performance but you can (and should) tweak to tastes via the DAC dials or SteelSeries Engine 3 software on PC. Out of the box, the Arctis Pro Wireless headset is compatible with PC and PS4, but there are online guides for getting this high-end SteelSeries headset working with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, which adds to its overall versatility.
For the Switch, the Arctis Pro Wireless’ Bluetooth connectivity means you can even use voice chat, too, and if your TV has an optical output port, you can configure this headset to play any audio coming from your TV for late-night gaming or video streaming. Bluetooth connectivity also means you never have to miss a call during gaming, and believe me when I say it’s easy to miss outside noises when using the Arctis Pro thanks to functional-but-comfortable passive noise cancelling.
Speaking of comfort, an adjustable strap and soft-padded earcups make this an easy fit for all noggin sizes, while tactile buttons make it a cinch to control volume, muting, Bluetooth connectivity, and power on/off. The headset microphone may not have the best noise isolation, but it tucks away to offer practical on-the-streets use. While battery life is limited to 10 hours, the Arctis Pro comes with a spare battery, conveniently charged in the DAC, so you’re looking at 20 hours of gaming, with only a few seconds of interlude as you switch out batteries.
Best budget gaming headphones under $100
HyperX Cloud Stinger
Despite its budget build, the Cloud Stinger pumps out bigger sound than virtual surround-sound headsets, which makes it a great choice for the gamer who also wants a solid stereo headphone solution for everyday computing, like beefy music playback and movie viewing. Despite a plasticky feel on the outside, the Cloud Stinger is still a comfortable pair of cans for all-day use.
The main con outside of no surround sound is the USB cable for the PC version could be a bit longer without needing an extension cable, which is less noticeable on the Xbox One variant, given you’re connecting to a controller in your hands.
Best PC gaming headset
At an RRP of $599, the Cloud Orbit S is incredibly expensive for a wired headset, even for one that offers wireless playback functionality that leans towards non-gaming application. It’s also held back by an implicit reliance on the downloadable Orbit software, given the physical presets are finnicky at best. Gripes aside, if you’re a shooter fan looking to invest in the best 3D audio around this price point, the Cloud Orbit S is for you.
Once adjusted to your bonce and software-tweaked to your preference, the Cloud Orbit S offers incredibly accurate 3D sound care of a combo of Audeze drivers and Waves NX technology, which includes unnecessary-but-awesome head tracking. Switch on 3D manual head tracking with the ‘Footsteps’ sound profile to pinpoint incoming enemies in a way that’s even more impressive than the DTS Headphone:X 2.0 models above. The dependable mic provides admirable audio while, outside of gaming, these high-end cans can be tweaked to offer audiophile-worthy playback.
Best Xbox One gaming headset
The Astro A40s are incredibly comfortable and equally impressive when it comes to the all-important sound front, pumping out the kind of bass that make other headsets sound tinny by comparison. While bone-shaking bass means that big-bang movies are just as enjoyable as boomstick gaming, they also offer a competitive edge when it comes to clearly identifying incoming footsteps, which is particularly important for games with shoddy sound design like the ever-popular Call of Duty: Warzone.
You don’t have to get lost in the sound, either, with a MixAmp for separately tweaking game and chat volume on the fly. The biggest con is the admittedly long trip-hazard cables between console and MixAmp, the length of which becomes a detractor if you alternate this headset between Xbox One and PC (which you totally can and absolutely should).
Best PS4 gaming headset
The Turtle Beach Stealth 600 is, unlike most of the options above, a great compromise between sound and price. If you want Bluetooth and DTS Headphone:X 2.0 support, beefier bass and/or leather earcups, opt for the pricier Stealth 700.
If not, the large 50mm speakers in the Stealth 600’s earcups provide great sound, while the virtual surround sound does an admirable job of boosting immersion for offline gaming and offering a competitive edge for those who prefer the online foray. In terms of function, you’re looking at 15 hours of wireless use that’s rounded off with a flip-up mic that’ll pick up your voice without touching your face. It’s just a shame that the rigid design makes it firmer and less comfortable for longer gaming sessions.